Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland, one of the UK’s largest manufacturing firms, has saved £165,000 after a campaign to encourage its factories to ‘power down’ at peak energy periods.

The company worked with its energy supplier SmartestEnergy on the campaign, which involved more than 20 of its factories in the UK and Ireland.

It focused on minimising the firm’s exposure to ‘Triad’ charges which are levied on large business users based on their electricity use over the three half-hours of highest demand on the grid each winter.

Saint-Gobain Glass’ Engineering Manager, Michael Dickinson, calculated that the charges mean running costs at its sites can rocket by as much as 500 times during one of the Triad periods, which are announced by National Grid at the end of each winter.

“Although it represents a sizeable proportion of business energy bills, the Triad system is something of a mystery to most people so we wanted to raise awareness across our sites, explain how it works and look at some of the ways we could look to reduce our costs,” explained Michael.

By switching some machinery off or rescheduling factory operations for a short period of time from around 4pm to 6pm – the peak time for Triads – demand across the sites during the three Triad periods showed an 11% fall and led to a total saving of £165,000.

One site, Holwell Works at Melton Mowbray (pictured), achieved a saving equivalent of more than a whole month’s energy costs at the site.

The site’s success saw it recently presented with the first Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland Energy Management Award.

“As well as reducing our costs and helping maintain our competitiveness, it also ties in well with our aims as a company to minimise our environmental impact and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities we operate in,” said Michael.

“Reducing our peak demand plays a part in helping balance the grid, ensuring the UK’s energy supplies are maintained and reducing the need for more generation capacity to be built.”

Although the timing of the Triad periods isn’t known in advance, Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland subscribes to SmartestEnergy’s Triad alerting service, which assesses a range of factors including historic trends and temperature to determine when they are likely.

The two companies are planning another joint awareness campaign ahead of this winter.